A TASTE OF THE PAST, SOUTH AUSTRALIA
A road trip is not quite a road trip without a bakery stop. Breakfast doughnuts have been known to fuel me for hours on the road, while fresh crusty loaves can make crappy Coles dip an actual A+ snack. This time we were up early for a magazine assignment about this very matter, eating and drinking on South Australian road trips. So, naturally, our first stop had to be a bakery.
Our task was to explore the epicurean treasures of the Barossa, the famed wine region settled by the Germans and Europeans in the early 1800s. I had heard about Apex Bakery from a friend who grew up in the area and recommended a visit to this 92-year-old bakery, and a bag of their Silesian-style pretzels.
"We get all the German people coming in and saying ‘that’s not how you make pretzels’ and we say ‘actually these are from Silesia'," says Corey Fechner, the third-generation owner and baker of Apex Bakery, whose family migrated to the Barossa from Polish/German Silesia in the early 1800s. The pretzels are his grandfather's recipe – a bread dough topped with rock salt and carraway seeds and baked not boiled.
Apex was founded in 1924 and Corey's grandfather, Keith, began baking there when he was just 12 years old, working everyday before and after school. The bakery has been a part of the Fechner family since Keith bought the bakery when he was 33.
As well as their pretzels and spongey soft, custard-filled bienenstich, or beesting, Apex are also known for their slow-ferment sourdough, a dense loaf left to prove for more than 12 hours. "We use the same recipe from when we started. The only difference is grandpa used to mix by hand."
Corey shows us the big mixing trough where his grandfather would mix the dough with his hands for four hours. "He'd put the lid down and go to the pub for a bit. Then he’d come back and have a sleep on top of the trough. As the dough rose, the lid would lift up and it would roll him into the wall, and then he’d wake up and he’d know the dough was ready."
The mixing method is a little less hands-on these days, the bakery now employ a two-arm electric mixer which replicates hand-mixing as opposed to typical spiral-mixing. "It's gentler on the dough and doesn’t knock the gluten around too much," explains Corey.
But the Fechners still bake the way their grandfather did – sliding their pies, pastries and loaves into the old Scotch oven. It's fired by local Mallee wood, which Corey says has a higher salt content that provides a hotter heat with less smoke. "This will hold its heat for two days – we’ll come in on a Sunday and cook a roast."
Corey took over running the bakery in 2015, something he says was inevitable. "At the age of 17 I couldn't get out of here quick enough!" he says. "I went down to Adelaide, and I did the travelling thing." But after almost a decade away, he was still drawn to life in the Barossa. "I'm very proud of my family, I’m proud of what they’ve done. I just always found myself talking about this place, and that was just a sign to me that I needed to come back. It’s in my blood."
1a Elizabeth St, Tanunda
8:30 AM - 5:30 PM
Photography: Leigh Griffiths
Words: Eloise Basuki